Bill Green, co-chair of our Green Team, has been looking into what green-building standards Wood Partners should adhere to when building our communities. It’s not an easy question, but Bill has provided a brief comparison of the three major national programs that we have explored.
Wood Partners: Green Building Program 101
As some of you may recall back in the summer of 2009, Wood Partners adopted ENERGY STAR for New Homes program (Version 2) as its Energy Policy / Green Building program. Since then, we have seen many changes to ENERGY STAR for New Homes with the most current Version 3 and other options available to help us achieve our sustainable design obligations to our communities as well as to our investors.
The green building industry is expanding and changing rapidly and many green building programs are now available on national and local levels. The three major national programs Wood Partners has used in the Central Region: LEED for Homes (and NC), NAHB National Green Building Standard and ENERGY STAR for New Homes. All of them use related guidelines to evaluate green building practices but there are some differences in prerequisite design parameters.
LEED for Homes, NAHB Green Building Standard, and ENERGY STAR for New Homes all require a separate verification for worksheet compliance and building performance.
It is challenging to equate the programs and evaluate which one is more “green” because all programs provide varying levels of certification and for the most part surpass adopted energy codes but some we have found are more costly than others. We can also say some have more national recognition than others and provide opportunities for enhanced product branding. LEED and ENERGY STAR for New Homes are the two front runners when it comes to national exposure. The NAHB National Green Building Standard might not have all the national attention but also does not have specific design prerequisites such as meeting ASHRAE 62.2 Fresh Air Requirements which has been our largest budget hurdle. LEED for Homes requires all projects to meet ENERGY STAR standards (currently v2.5), including performance testing and will soon adopt ENERGY STAR v3 in the near future for its baseline energy standards which is even more stringent.
Standards Used for Verification
The LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR for New Home programs have established their guidelines from a design standpoint and therefore tend to use existing criteria that deliver measurable requirements for builders to obtain. The NAHB Green Building Standards provide parallel goals but often use more prescriptive language to define compliance procedures.
The NAHB Green Building Standards currently have very few prerequisites in comparison to LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR for New Homes. By dropping the number of obligatory features necessary for compliance, the NAHB system permits designers and builders to select and where to focus their design needs. LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR for New Homes uses a more stringent platform than the other programs, which summarizes a list of mandated building practices and then offers some recommendations that do not impact compliance but could increase overall building performance which would reduce operating cost.
Standard vs. Rating Systems
NAHB created the National Green Building Standard to act as an overall guideline of best practices for green buildings. It does not encompass precise requirements for compliance with a particular platform and municipalities have the choice of implementing the National Green Building Standard to develop their own local green building programs. Compliance provisions for the NAHB Green Building Standards are limited in the NAHB online scoring tool and verification guidelines. LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR for New Homes all developed their procedures to be executed exclusively as part of their certification process.
How they fit together
All three programs utilize regional providers who may have certifications of their own that can be done in parallel and often provide added appeal for local customers.
It is challenging to deliver a cost comparison of the different programs because they all have different compliance methods and verification participation. Also, for any program that necessitates third party verification, cost is based on fees for consulting and inspection services provided by the local rater. LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR for New Homes is often considered the more expensive of the three due to a greater level of mandatory participation by project teams in the design and planning process.
Whether you want to maximize your energy savings or control construction cost look into the different programs on a national or local level that will give you and your region the best results.
William J. Greene III, LEED® AP BD+C
Improving People’s Lives by Creating Better Communities